Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia.

Posting this to both tumblr and ffnet, which I don't like to do (I prefer to post to one or the other), but I figured at least it would let you know I haven't disappeared into the ether.

Part of a series of prompts I accepted from friends in an attempt to jump-start my writing. They gave me a list of words, I take one word and write pretty much whatever comes to mind when I think of it. Oddly enough, even though this prompt wasn't near the first on the list it's the first one I came up with something for.

They say 'Parting is such sweet sorrow'.

They lie.

The ache in his heart is anything but sweet, and it only grows with each passing moment as he tries to stave off 'goodbye'.

"Don't go. Please, America." His voice is rough, breaking, and Romano knows he's begging, but he doesn't care. "Don't leave me, please. I-I'll do anything." His fingers are twisted so tightly in America's shirt that the fabric is cutting off his circulation. It hurts too much to let go. "Just, don't leave me."

He has his answer as America's already pained expression tightens at his words.

"Romano," America's voice is sorrowful but firm, blue eyes are full of apology and regret as he covers Romano's hands with his own, gently— he's always gentle with Romano, always, even now when he's breaking his heart— prying trembling fingers loose from his shirt. "You know I can't stay."

But Romano isn't one to let go so easily, so he pulls his hands free and grabs the back of America's neck, pulling him down 'til their foreheads meet, holding fast. "Write to me. You'd better fucking write. And call too, you stupid fucking bastard, you hear me?"

"I hear," America closes his eyes, his hands coming up instinctively to cup Romano's cheeks, thumbs brushing away the tears that Romano didn't even know he was shedding, "and I will. Whenever I can."

They both know any communication between them will be sparse. America will keep his promise, but communications from the front have been sporadic at best since they've had to resort to traditional post, and radio calls were banned outside of special allotment, because of the risk they posed. Letters from America may never arrive, and if— when— he manages to get a radio allotment and make a call, they'll have to be careful what they say. Every word will be monitored, and anyone could be listening in.

"I hate you for this." Romano says, and almost wishes he could. "I hate this stupid war. I hate it for taking you from me. I hate you for leaving. I hate this. I hate this so much. I —" He chokes on a sob, unable to finish. The warmth of America's hands leave his face, and he presses it gratefully into America's shoulder when strong arms wrap around his waist to draw him close.

"Shhh," America soothes, pressing kisses to his hair, rubbing his back. "Shh, I know. I hate it too. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you, Romano. I love you so much. I don't want to leave. But I have to. I have to," he insists, earnest and serious, when Romano pulls back, mouth open to argue. "Some things need to be fought for, Romano. Or against." He adds, eyes hardening.

Romano closes his mouth, frowning, but doesn't say anything. Deep down, he knows America's right, this time.

It doesn't make things any easier.

Someone calls to America, letting him know it's time to go, and America nods to them over his shoulder before turning back to Romano to say goodbye. Whatever he's about to say is cut off when Romano yanks him down by the collar, kissing him fiercely.

"You come back to me, you bastard." He demands once they part. "Don't you dare fucking die on me."

America hesitates, and Romano's heart stops, stomach dropping through the floor.

America isn't sure. America, his America, his sunny, 'against all odds', idealistic 'anything's possible if you believe it' America isn't sure if he'll survive. Romano knew things were bad, but he didn't realise it was this bad. America's idealistic, but he's not unintelligent, and his information networks are some of the best in the world. If America thinks there's even a possibility he won't make it through, then it's probably closer to what anyone else would consider a certainty.

"Romano," through the haze of shock his mind is reeling in he hears America saying urgently, "no matter what happens, I want you to know, I love you more than anything else in this world. You've made me very happy, Romano, and I'll do everything in my power to come back to you. I have to go now." He adds, pressing a hasty, fervent kiss to Romano's lips— Romano's too shocked to do anything but respond automatically— before pulling away, "I love you, Romano. I love you so much. Goodbye."

He leaves, and Romano watches him go, a strange sense of deja vu at the sight of America's broad back growing further away as the other nation leaves for war. How many times has he been left behind like this, to sit and wait in relative safety while someone he loves leaves to fight a war they might not return from? Too many to count.

He's always hated it. The uncertainty, the worry, the loneliness. The not knowing, the pit of fear and dread in his stomach that never goes away until they return, safe and sound once more.

Romano knows he's a coward. Always has been. He's not proud of it, but he's not ashamed of it, either. It's how he's survived this long. He and his brother have managed to stay out of the conflict thus far, and he'd like to keep it that way.

America didn't even ask him to join him, this time— unlike all the other wars America's been in— which he'd been surprised and relieved by; but now he realises that America didn't ask him to join this time because America doesn't think he can protect him, because America doesn't expect to survive this war.

Romano watches America walk away, and realises that this could truly be the last time he sees him.

Panick fills him, and he starts to run. "Wait! America, WAIT!"

In the distance, America glances back, and turns. Romano can't see his face clearly from here, but he knows he's frowning in concern, assuming something is wrong.

America's pretty far off, and he's got a long way to run, but Romano's good at running. He's been doing it all his life.

And this time, America is waiting for him.

"What—?" America starts to ask as soon as he draws level.

"I'm going with you." Romano pants breathlessly, and grabs America's hand, lacing their fingers together. "Wherever you go, I'm going too." America's brows furrow, and Romano knows he's about to protest, to insist that he stay behind where it's safe, so he cuts him off determinedy, "No matter what happens," he says, searching America's eyes, willing him to understand, "we'll go together."

America looks at him, and down to their joined hands, and back up, clearly thinking. Slowly, he nods, and almost-smiles. "Okay." He agrees softly, squeezing Romano's hand. Romano pulls out his cell phone as they fall into step, hand-in-hand, and dials.

"Veneziano," he tells his brother seriously. "We're going to war."

Romano knows he's a coward. But he's come to realise what he's most afraid of- what would hurt the most- is a life without America.

AN: So there you go. The prompt for this one: 'Pain'.